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THE end is in matters of desire like the first principles of demonstration in the abstract sciences. These principles are naturally known, and any error concerning them could come only from a perversion of nature [verging on idiotcy]: hence a man could not be moved from a true understanding of such principles to a false one, or from a false to a true, except through some change in his nature. It is impossible for those who go wrong over first principles to be brought right by other and more certain principles; or for any one to be beguiled from a true understanding of such principles by other principles more plausible. So it is in regard of the last end. Every one has a natural desire of the last end; and the possession of a rational nature, generically as such, carries with it a craving for happiness: but the desire of happiness and the last end in this or that shape and aspect comes from a special disposition of nature: hence the Philosopher says that as the individual is himself, so does the end appear to him.10661066Eth. Nic. III, vii, 17. If then the frame of mind under which one desires a thing as his last end is fixed and immovable, the will of such a person is unchangeably fixed in the desire of that end. But these frames of mind, prompting such desires, can be removed from us so long as the soul is united with the body. Sometimes it is an impulse of passion that prompts us to desire a thing as our last end: but the impulse of passion quickly passes away, and with it is removed the desire of that end. In other cases the frame of mind, provocative of such desire, amounts to a habit; and that frame of mind is not so easily got rid of, and the desire of an end thence ensuing is consequently stronger and more lasting: yet even a habit is removable in this life. We have seen then that so long as the frame of mind lasts, which prompts us to desire a thing as our last end, the desire of that particular end is irremovable, because the last end, or whatever be taken for such, is desired above all things else; and no other object of greater desire can ever call us away from the desire of that which we take for our last end. Now the soul is in a changeable state so long as it is united with the body, but not after it is parted from 418the body.10671067In other words, the soul in the body is still φύσις, something that grows: out of the body it τέλος, a made thing for ever, as an angel is. Separated therefore from the body, the soul will be no longer apt to advance to any new end, but must rest for ever in the end already attained. The will then will be immovable in its desire of what it has taken for its last end. But on the last end depends all the goodness or wickedness of the will. Whatever good things one wills in view of a good end, he does well to will them,10681068Bona quaecunque aliquis vult in ordine ad bonum finem, bene vult. The things must not only be ‘in view of a good end,’ they must also be ‘good,’ that is, permissible, in themselves. See Ethics and Natural Law, p. 32, n. 3. But has not St Thomas said that “on the last end depends all the goodness or wickedness of the will”? Yes, and therefore it is to be further observed that “whoever has placed a good end before him, and regards it steadily with a well-ordered love, never swerving in his affection from the way that reason would have him love, must needs take towards his end those means, and those only, which are in themselves reasonable and just: . . . . thus an end entirely just, holy, and pure, purifies and sanctifies the means, not by investing with a character of justice means in themselves unjust, but by way of elimination, removing unjust means as ineligible” (ib. pp. 36, 37). as he does ill to will anything in view of an evil end. Thus the will of the departed soul is not changeable from good to evil, although it is changeable from one object of volition to another, its attitude to the last end remaining constant.
Nor is such fixedness of will inconsistent with free will. The act of free will
is to choose, and choice is of means to the end, not of the last end.10691069St Thomas
here is not denying, what he throughout supposes, that in this life our acceptance
(intentio, inhaesio, desiderium ultimi finis) of anything
as our last end is a free act. He is merely quoting Aristotle as sufficient authority
for his present purpose. Aristotle’s words are in Eth. Nic. III, iv, 8. Cf.
Aquinas Ethicus, I, pp. 51-54: Political and Moral Essays, p. 250.
— Free will goes with deliberation. We mortal men find ourselves deliberating continually
about means, but very rarely about ends. Character is said to become ‘formed’ as
time advances: that is to say, some definite view of the meaning and purpose of
life comes to be finally adopted: or, in Thomistic phraseology, ‘the will of the
last end becomes fixed,’ practically speaking, before death; and if so, he would
argue, much more in death. A conversion or perversion, that is to say, a total change
of front for better or worse, does not occur in mature life, except where a series
of choices and preferences has for years been leading up to such a consummation.
We must not look for conversions beyond the tomb, nor, happily, for perversions
either. As then there is nothing inconsistent with free choice in our will
being immovably fixed in the desire of happiness and general abhorrence of misery,
so neither will our faculty of free choice be set aside by our will being resistlessly
carried to one definite object as its last end.10701070Unless that object be so narrowed
down as that all means of approach to it are limited and exclusive, as if I were
compelled to go to London, and saw only one way. As at present our common
nature is immovably fixed in the desire of happiness in general, so hereafter by
one special frame of mind we shall be fixed in the desire of this or that particular
object as constituting our last end.10711071 Concerning angels’ wills, good and bad, St Thomas writes (Sum. Theol.
I, q. 64, art. 2):
“Appetitive power is proportioned to apprehensive. Now an angel’s apprehension differs from a man’s in this, that the angel apprehends a thing at a glance, by one fixed intuition; man by a course of reasoning, inclining him to opposite conclusions. Hence man’s will adheres to an object unsteadily, but an angel’s fixedly and immovably.” See above, Chap. LV, § 4.
Thus naturally there is no repentance for fallen angels.
Nor is it to be thought that when souls resume their bodies at the resurrection, they lose the unchangeableness of their will, for in the resurrection bodies will be organised to suit the requirements of the soul (Chapp. LXXXVI, LXXXIX): souls then will not be changed by re-entering their bodies, but will remain permanently what they were.419
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